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Moore named MVP as Lynx players enjoy hometown All-Star Game

MINNEAPOLIS—With banners representing four championship wins over the past seven years hanging from the ceiling Saturday afternoon, July 28, it seemed appropriate that four Lynx players—the most of any team—were on the court during the first WNBA All-Star Game to be played in Minneapolis.

But who were the fans supposed to cheer for?

Torn during the game, it's obvious who they cheered at the end.

Lynx forward Maya Moore was named the game's most valuable player for the third consecutive time, the first player to win the award in her home city. She had 18 points and eight rebounds as her team, Team Parker, beat Team Delle Donne 119-112 at Target Center.

Cheered wildly when the announcement was made, Moore reciprocated the support after the game.

"It just felt good in there," she said. "I think people were really excited to have it here at a fun time. ... I appreciate having my teammates around and all the people who have been making this place a special place."

Changing the traditional Eastern vs. Western Conference format, the league this year went more playground-like with Elena Delle Donne and Candace Parker, the player-captains, choosing their teams from among the other 20 all-stars.

Lynx players Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles were on Team Delle Donne, and Rebekkah Brunson and Moore were on Team Parker.

"For us to have four of our starters on this team on our home floor in front of these amazing fans meant everything," Fowles said.

Among them was Linae Larson, a 14-year-old from Richfield, Minn. She was a Junior All-Star for the game and was paired with Fowles as part of the 2016 Lynx honorary "Dream Team."

"We're cheering for whatever team Syl is on," said Larson, who has myopathy, a muscle disorder which causes her to often need a wheelchair. She also hoped to see some trash talk among Lynx teammates.

She and her mom, Kelly, are first-year season-ticket holders, in part because, she says, the league shows that women can do anything they want.

"(Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve) is the epitome of a role model standing up for what she represents, especially on societal issues," she added. "It's empowering."

Chicago's Allie Quigley matched Moore with 18 points in Team Parker's victory. Augustus had 14 points, third best for the losing side.

But the score wasn't what mattered for many; it was about the smiles and watching in person as the league's best players went head-to-head. It was an overdue experience they'll never forget.

The thrill of the game, said 15-year-old Allison Letcher of Windom, Minn., was "watching all the great players play together and the competitiveness for the people on the same team going against each other."

Letcher was rooting for Moore and Team Parker, but her sister Alivia, 10, was rooting for Team Delle Donne because Augustus is her favorite player.

"We come up when we can," said their mom, Lisa.

What they see is a league, now in its 22nd season, with probably the best talent pool it has ever had. Ratings for nationally televised games are up 38 percent over last year.

"The pace of the game is incredibly fast," said WNBA President Lisa Borders. "The players as individuals play well. The teams are incredible, also. But we have lots of records that are falling while the season is going on. The pace of play, the competitive nature and the physicality is just unbelievable."

Sporting a Moore jersey, Chris Morgan of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., said he attends "quite a few" games each year. "There's lots of energy, and the atmosphere is great with the fans and players"

The Lynx average 9,935 fans per game, second-best in the 12-team league. Playing at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul last year while Target Center was being renovated, Minnesota averaged 10,407 fans, a 12.3 percent increase over 2016 and the most since its inaugural season in 1999.

"The biggest reason why we're able to host the WNBA All-Star Game is because we have the best fans in the WNBA," Reeve said Friday.

"I hope all the all-stars for once enjoyed not being booed," Moore joked.

Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi is one of the most disliked Lynx opponents—she received the least amount of applause during introductions—but the league's all-time leading scorer respects Lynx backers.

"They're so loyal. They come to the games, and they come to compete, too," Taurasi said. "And you can appreciate that as a player when you walk into a building and the fans are so passionate like Minnesota fans. That's what every franchise and every team strives to get to. ... They set the bar, too, as fans for the league."

Parker, the leader of rival the Los Angeles Sparks, was shocked when a Lynx fan wanted a high-five.

"It's great, the support for their team," she said. "In the WNBA we have fans, and even if they're against you, they rally behind their team. I respect it. This is a great All-Star Game; they did a great job putting it on."